Toronto International Film Festival

Selling tickets year-round with data-driven marketing

Success highlights

graph with a nest egg showing ROAS (Return on ad spend)

$228K presale ticket revenue

three ID cards representing fan records

15,433 new addressable fans

magnifying glass above a gem for a single view of the fan

75% of fans provided insightful social data

Courtney Harrison
Marketing Analytics & Strategy

“Umbel has empowered our marketing team to jump on opportunities and turn targeted campaigns around really quickly. The ability to better understand our customers and market to them more thoughtfully has been a game changer.

Creating a centralized view of fans

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is more than an annual festival—it’s seeking to “transform the way people see the world through film.” While the festival itself draws close to 500,000 attendees, TIFF also creates and curates programming throughout the year. In an effort to better understand their audience, as well as to grow their fan base for both the festival and their year-round programming, TIFF partnered with Umbel prior to their 2017 signature event.

Prior to partnering with Umbel, TIFF employed an extremely manual process to understand attendees, pulling and analyzing data in spreadsheets from Mailchimp and Ticketmaster. They used those to create custom lists for email outreach and ticketing campaigns. Now, with the Umbel platform, TIFF unifies their data across all their platforms so they can easily segment and reach all of their fans.

Growing their email list

screenshot for a facebook login for tiffWith their data centralized through Umbel, TIFF turned their attention toward growing their email audience, including the subscriber base for their newsletter, “The Weekly.” Because TIFF is a Canadian-based organization, their email outreach needed to be in compliance with the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL), which stipulates that fans must opt into receiving certain communications. To grow both lists while staying CASL-compliant, TIFF used Umbel’s Activations to have fans opt into “The Weekly” newsletter.

From May to September, TIFF ran a total of 31 Activations and added 15,433 net new fans to their database. Of those new fans, 75% provided additional social data (i.e., segmentable data on film, food, and other brand preferences) and 1,074 people opted in to receive “The Weekly.”

Increasing engagement and ticket revenue through targeted email campaigns

Leveraging a larger database of reachable fans, TIFF began to focus on driving sales for their signature eventTo do this, TIFF employed three strategies: 1) segmenting and emailing fans based on their distinct likes and past screening attendance, 2) collecting new data on fans through ticket giveaways created in the Umbel platform, and 3) running presale Activations with a gated special access code to purchase tickets.


In all, TIFF sent 11 targeted emails based on segments created in Umbel. On average, these had a 190% greater open rate than their non-Umbel email campaigns, along with a 4.2x greater click through rate.

Their contest Activations had a 46% completion rate, adding over 1,800 new fans to their database. During a four-week stretch, over 6,500 fans participated in the 16 contest Activations TIFF launched.

Across their digital channels, TIFF generated over $228,000 in ticket revenue via Umbel Activations for presale tickets.

Creating value for partners

With their success generating email subscriptions and ticket sales, TIFF saw the opportunity to leverage Umbel Activations for their festival partners. TIFF created a co-branded activation for one of their major partners. Not only was this a turnkey activation, requiring far less manual effort to execute than traditional activations, but it added value for the partnership through fan data shared to their partner. The two co-branded activations were a major success for both TIFF and their corporate partner—825 fans participated, with 32% opting in to receive their partner’s newsletter.

Looking ahead

Coming out of their success in 2017, TIFF plans to build on that momentum, including additional Activations to grow their database. Additionally, they’re working to introduce WiFi gating to collect data on the thousands of year-round visitors in their building each month.

Based on the success of their segmented email campaigns, TIFF intends to increase the percentage of profiles in Umbel that have brand affinity data. Their team will also continue to leverage Umbel to easily find fans who might enjoy some of their more niche offerings such as Indian cinema and Russian silent films throughout the year.

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